Achieving Ethnicity breakfast seminar: hosted by Bruin

The findings of the 2017 McGregor-Smith Review highlighted the key issues affecting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation in the workplace. This included proposals to replicate the gender pay gap reporting obligations for ethnicity, estimated to be a gap of over £3.2 billion in the UK. 

But research shows a significant lack of progress has been made on the recommendations in the review, and the financial services sector is particularly culpable.  It is clear that now is the time for action, not words. This was the subject of Bruin’s recent breakfast forum, ‘Achieving EthniCity’, which focused on BAME representation in financial services, the challenges the sector faces and what employers can do to remove barriers to workplace progression for ethnic minorities.

The event was attended by hiring managers, HR business partners, D&I professionals and talent acquisition specialists. Our guest speakers and panellists were Maktuno Suit, Psychologist and Executive Coach, and Richard Thompson, Head of Investment Risk at Merian Global Investors. Bruin Financial was represented by Kirstin Duffy, COO, and Tim Holbrough, Traded Risk and Quantitative Analytics Consultant.

Closing the gap on BAME representation in the workplace: Maktuno Suit

The session opened with an overview of how systematic bias informs our decision making, highlighting the importance of robust procedures to mediate their effects. It was noted that race was often particularly hard to talk about, and an issue where little progress has been made, by comparison to other areas of diversity and inclusion. Accepting that our unconscious racial bias may influence our decisions is challenging and can cause discomfort, not least because of the historical context. Even navigating the discussion about use of correct language without alienating people further can be a barrier. Attendees were reminded that for the purpose of the forum, language was important, but not critical.

Three boundaries were outlined:

  1. Be respectful – the potential for offence or misunderstanding is high.
  2. Be personally reflective – looking inwards as individuals and companies was essential.
  3. Be empathetic – this issue is about seeing things from the perspective of others.

A number of thought-provoking statistics were presented, drawn from employment studies and self-reported data. What was particularly evident was the paucity of information on this subject and that actual experiences of quantifiable ‘racism’ are difficult to substantiate. It is key to understand that bias is incredibly hard to measure and whilst the data clearly shows there is a problem, it is people’s experience and perception that is significant.

A number of concepts were raised, including micro-aggression, code switching and white privilege, which illustrated how perceptions and experience can vary according to context and situation, but in financial services, some of the challenges are particularly acute. The importance of addressing this is not only a moral and social obligation; but also provides organisations with diversity of thought which offers the most robust response to market change, greater efficiencies, increased profitability and access to much needed talent pools, which the industry cannot afford to ignore.

The session concluded with Q&A, touching on a variety of topics which included how the UK differed to other countries in terms of BAME representation and inclusion, what financial services organisations can do to change the perception of the sector within the BAME community, and some personal experiences from attendees were shared.

The session provoked some important discussions and Bruin would like to extend enormous thanks to Maktuno Suit and Richard Thompson for their time and support in making the event possible.

For more information or a discussion about diverse talent pipelining please contact one of our Consultants.